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War Stories -- Brian Williams

by Geraldo Rivera | Mar 02, 2015

I only remember being with Brian Williams once in a combat situation, covering the elections in Iraq in January 2005. Williams, Peter Jennings, and I were flying either in or out of Mosul aboard a C-130. Before takeoff, Williams reveled in the fact that he had beaten Jennings in the ratings every week since he replaced Brokaw as NBC's anchor. Williams and I joked about how neither of us liked the ABC News anchor because he was usually so stuck up. But I also remember thinking how uncharacteristically nice Jennings was being to everyone. It turns out it was his last big foreign assignment before announcing his diagnosis of fatal cancer.
As the more senior correspondents, Jennings and I got to sit in the two available cockpit jump seats, Williams and crew were in the back. 
On takeoff a missile alarm sounded and the pilot banked the aircraft hard. Nothing happened and we flew safely to our destination. In my mind the only controversy was whose name would be the headline if we crashed. My point is, Williams was brave enough to be there multiple times.
People who never covered combat should moderate their self-righteous tone in their condemnation of the embattled NBC anchor. Why are the most vocal critics always the wimps who never served or put themselves at risk? He is being pummeled and punished most fervently by a corps of Millennial couch potatoes who never risked anything more significant than a fingernail punching their video game consoles.
And why didn’t Williams' producers correct his tall tale? 
Reporters make mistakes in stressful situations. War stories get inflated over time and with boozy repetition. 
The audience will determine whether they still trust him or not.

 

January 2005

Geraldo Shakes Hands With Brian Williams

 
Followed by an interview with General George Casey
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